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Last year, when the first lockdown temporarily put paid to high-level motorsport, the rFactor 2 esports platform hosted a series called the Legends Trophy, pitting 20 star drivers against each other in 10 virtual races.
Competitors ranged from F1 world champions Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel to multiple Le Mans winner Jan Magnussen and Scottish four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti.
Also on the grid was Darren Turner, a longstanding Aston Martin works racing driver who has represented the maker at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on no fewer than 17 occasions and helped it to an impressive five podium finishes and three class victories.
When he’s not driving through the night or carrying out high-speed testing on the latest Aston supercar, Turner can be found in a small industrial unit in rural Oxfordshire where he runs Base Performance Simulators, which has been designing and building state-of-the-art motorsport simulators for the use of leading professional and amateur drivers since 2010.
Ordinarily, these take the form of the entire front end of a full-sized racing car, crammed with technology to replicate the real thing as closely as possible – but when Aston Martin design boss Marek Reichman visited Base Performance to hone his skills in 2019, he and Turner had the idea of offering the authenticity of a full-sized simulator scaled down into a stylish and beautifully engineered Aston-inspired package for the home.
The result is the Curv AMR-C01, a limited-edition simulator that is capable of transporting the diehard petrolhead from slobbing out in an armchair to experiencing the thrill of a 1,160-horsepower Aston Martin Valkyrie within seconds of stepping into its svelte, carbon-fibre cockpit.
Based around the advanced Assetto Corsa simulator software platform, each of the 150 bespoke-built AMR-C01s gets a leather-trimmed race seat, a beautifully engineered and fully adjustable carbon and aluminium pedal box, and a simplified version of an F1-style steering wheel, complete with clutch and gear-change paddles and digital readouts for engine revs, lap times, speed and so on.
Directly in front is the curved, high-definition 49in screen that takes the driver into a virtual racing world where they can test their mettle on more than 50 of the world’s greatest circuits – from Britain’s Brands Hatch to the Suzuka in Japan and everywhere in between.
Anyone who has never tried a high-end simulator might be sceptical about just how realistic they can be. But those who have will confirm that the experience requires just the same level of skill, demands just as much concentration and gives just as much feedback as an actual car.
Although the AMR-C01's driving position is based on that of the Valkyrie, the system makes it possible to choose from hundreds of different cars by dozens of different makers at the flick of a switch. In the name of brand loyalty, I opted to start off with an Aston Martin Vantage road car, heeding Turner’s advice to put in a few gentle laps initially so as to get the feel of things.
Within a minute I was hooked, but it was only by moving up to the full-race version of the Vantage and then on to the Valkyrie that the authenticity of the simulator really showed through in its uncanny ability to mimic the individual characteristics of each car, from power to sound and braking to handling.
My best lap time of one minute 10 seconds around Silverstone’s National Circuit in the road-going Vantage was quickly obliterated by a 57 seconds effort in the Valkyrie – once I had come to terms with the banshee wail of the engine and just how much more quickly the car accelerated, braked and went around corners.
At a base price of £57,500 (before taxes) the AMR-C01 certainly represents a serious investment. But if you love driving and want to experience the thrill of the racetrack as closely as possible without actually being on one, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. And best of all, it doesn’t hurt when you crash and you won’t be left with a mass of crumpled carbon fibre and a large repair bill.
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